Growing pains: Why it’s harder to do yoga the older you get


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As we get older, we are told to never stop working out. We see older men and women in magazines, attributing their good looks and general well-being to their trainer or their self-developed fitness-yoga routine. 

In “Harold and Maude,” 79-year-old Maude is young at heart because she’s active. “That’s the influence of the right food, exercise and breathing,” she says as Harold compliments her for looking younger than her age. 

What we are not told too often is that age makes it harder for us to work out. Now we’re not saying a positive attitude isn’t the way to go. It definitely is. But knowing your limits will keep you safe from injuries, which, as well all know, are such a drag.


The yoga issue

Yoga is a wonderful way to stay fit and flexible at any age. In theory, it can help you immensely, because flexibility is a key part in protecting yourself from broken bones, fractured ribs or any other nasty accident that sometimes happens in older adults. 

On the other hand, as we advance in age, our bodies tend to become weaker. If you’ve been a yoga aficionado for years now, you might discover that some poses are becoming more difficult to sustain. When you’re used to doing a perfect dog pose every time, you’re likely to force yourself to get it right, even if your body is telling you to stop. This is one of the main problems that can occur with yoga practice over the age of 50. 

Anne Kreamer, a life-long fan of yoga, tells the Huffington Post that the first time she noticed something strange was after a particularly challenging yoga class, which involved headstands and handstands. As she checked herself in the mirror, she noticed multiple blood vessels in her eyes had burst. She was only in her mid-40s then. 

After further investigations, Anne discovered that headstands were considered dangerous even in the yoga community. What’s more, her doctor was concerned that, with her high blood pressure condition, the exercises she was doing could increase pressure on the blood vessels in the eyes, which, in conjunction with her inflexible vascular system and her prescription medicine, put her at risk of blood-vessel rupture. 


What to do next

While Anne Kreamer quit yoga altogether, you don’t necessarily need to do the same. It’s all about your personal physical limits and listening to your own body.

Ask your doctor. 

Consulting a professional can always give you perspective. Your physician knows how your medicine could interact with your training and how your body can handle the heat. He can also tell you what exercises to avoid so that you steer clear of accidents. We all know the older we get, the longer we take to heal. So an “accident” may even lead to having special care, which could put you and your workouts on a pause altogether. 


Listen to your body’s reactions to pressure. 

If you’re not feeling right in a position that you could easily handle before, it’s probably best to take it down a notch. Ask your yoga instructor how you can get the stretching benefits of a certain pose without putting yourself at risk.


Choose a yoga class that focuses on people of your age. 

Peer pressure is really important in yoga. When you see someone in a perfect dog pose, you’re more likely to want to imitate them than sit that one out. But when you’re around people your own age, it’s easier to act naturally. Plus, the exercises will probably be age-appropriate and easier to follow.


Don’t be afraid of change. 

Everything changes around us and inside us. You shouldn’t cling to yoga or any other type of physical workout if you’re not feeling it anymore. There are other ways to keep fit, and letting go can actually be beneficial if you’re not getting what you need from your class.


Don’t be afraid to challenge yoga. 

Stretching should help you feel better, and if it’s not, it might not be right for you anymore. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. But when it’s broken, try and fix it as soon as you can. You’ll feel better. 


Felicity Dryer is a freelance writer who lives in Southern California. She has a passion to help those seeking encouragement to keep moving forward. In her free time, she loves to going to the beach and finding new hiking trails.